Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Podcasts I've Discovered

I am, like most people I expect, often trying to cut down my subscription list of podcasts.  Podcasts age, they lose their way, they stop producing.  Every now and then a cull clears up your time for what suits your listening taste best.

I'm always happy when a new podcast comes along that I enjoy though.  I like a little shake up of my feed.  This week I've added two new subscriptions.

Firstly Shonky Lab who can be found here  Elton and Pete discussing what they like to listen to, watch, read, etc.  Up to now there are two episodes on the feed.  An introductory show and an episode discussing cartoons of their childhood.  A very entertaining episode, even if they seem to have a totally different taste in animation to me!  Go give them a listen, they're a witty duo.

Next came the Fantastic Stories Podcast which can be found here This has a solo presenter, Jacob.  The subject is Classic Audio Drama.  So far there has been one episode containing one UK and one US Radio Drama.  These seem to be straight out of the classic era of melodramatic radio plays.  They ooze nostalgia.  The good thing is they're also a good, fun listen.  If you're a fan of the Hypnogoria Podcast and/or The TimeVault Podcast I strongly recommend you pop over for a listen.

I'm looking forward to hearing more from both of these podcasts.  Thanks for the work you put in guys :-)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tome Time - Cybill Disobedience by Cybill Shepherd

Started November 15th, finished December 29th.  421 pages.

This was an impulse free purchase.  I discovered it whilst hunting around for free/very cheap Kindle books.  I was very surprised to find it for free.  I've always quite liked Cybill Shepherd and thought her autobiography would be popular.  Especially due to the Elvis bits.  Then I began to wonder if she'd missed out all the juicy bits and that's why it was free....

Well, I couldn't have been more wrong really.  This seems to be a no holds barred account of the way she sees her life.  Unless she's led a much more exciting time and she's only given us the tip of the iceberg.  I find this unlikely though as she doesn't look haggard enough.

She starts at the very beginning and we learn of her childhood.  Which doesn't seem altogether the happiest.  there are some dark parts to it.  She's taught early on the value of her looks.  Which she seems to view as a help but also a hindrance at times throughout her career.

I really expected to like Cybill and thoroughly enjoy this book.  She's always come across as beautiful, bright and fun with what seems like a wicked sense of humour.  The tales of her tomboy behaviour at the start of the book further confirmed this.  However as the book went on I found myself not taking to her quite as much.  It seems wrong to state that the author of an autobiography seems self-centred, that's what they're here for.  It just seemed that she saw things from her perspective and nowhere else.

Early on in the book a relationship falls apart, which may have done anyway but she hastened it on.  That's never going to warm the reader up.  But I put this aside as she was honest about her involvement and she was pretty young at the time.  She always seems to come across as though she's a little hard done to throughout the book.  Maybe she was?  The problem was I don't know anything about anyone else mentioned so I can't compare.

The chapters of her life including Orson Welles were interesting.  Hell, she shared a house with Citizen Kane :-)  The parts about Elvis were creepy rather than anything else.  She did well getting out of there.

I hate it when I read an autobiography and I like the writer less afterwards.  I don't hate the woman.  I still have her to thank for episodes of Cybill when I was grounded on Friday nights.  I would love to know the views of those that she was less than complimentary of.  The ones she thinks stabbed her in the back.  You've got to give her credit, she did well in a male dominated world.  She was successful and I'm guessing she did have to stand her ground a lot.  Maybe I'm doing her a huge disservice.

The problem with reading a Kindle book is that you don't get to read the cover and dedications etc, as easily as a real book.  There is a ghost writer here, Aimee Lee Ball.  I forget these things when I read on a  Kindle though.  I have no idea what her input was.  The book read well enough though.

I certainly couldn't complain that there wasn't enough juice in there.  This book is raw and a gossip's dream. Not one I'll ever read again though.

2.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Le Dossier by Sarah Long

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tome Time - Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Started December 1st, finished December 19th.  305 pages.

This was recommended by a friend.  It had been on my radar for a while so it became time to finally read it.

I wasn't disappointed.  This is a book that lives up to it's cover comments.

Bourdain has an easy, chatty writing style.  He can see his faults but without false modesty.  He tells his student (and far past student) years honestly without a male bragging style.  I don't really feel like I 'know' the author from this book but I did enjoy 'spending time in his company'.

Of course what we're all looking for is the dirt on the industry.  There's plenty in here to keep you entertained.  But what I liked most were the characters he described.  It's also ensured that I will never attempt restaurant ownership.  Bourdain doesn't give out much more personal info than Marco Pierre White did in his memoir.  However this one is a far better read.  You feel like you've shared rather than been shut out.

The author has a love for his industry and enjoys it warts and all.  It's a fascinating, entertaining read.  I've took his tips on board on what not to eat and when to avoid things but I've survived this long.  I'm never going to refuse the mussels if a place looks respectable enough.

4.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Cybill Disobedience - by Cybill Shepherd

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tome Time - The Spanish Civil War by Antony Beevor

Started May 19th, finished December 16th.  410 pages.

This is a book I wanted to read after seeing a few films set in the era soon after the Civil War.  I wasn't pleased by my total lack of knowledge of what happened.  I was glad that the book is written by Beevor as I find his books an interesting read and easy to understand.

A quick look at the glossary should have warned me of what was to come.  This is a very difficult conflict to grasp.  There are so many factions within the two warring sides.  Far too many names involved to make remembering who's who completely possible.

I came out of the reading of the book with an understanding of what had happened and why.  However the finer an even not so fine detail isn't clear to me.  This may be mostly my fault.  As the book was such a heavy read I dipped in and out of it.  A chapter here, a few pages there.  The book is well written, it's just a very hard subject to grasp.  I'm very glad I read it as I now have a good overview of events that led to Franco's dictatorship.

Neither side comes out of this book well.  The ridiculous in fighting and power struggles are infuriating to read about.  The lives they cost horrendous.  The barbarity of the commanders in what they dispatched their own men into is gut wrenching.  What they used their new technology to do to 'the other side' barbaric in the extreme.  This is a very depressing book.  Spain's people are used to test modern weaponry on by outside factors at no risk to themselves.

It stops at the end of the war.  I would like to read more though.  If anyone knows of any non-fiction accounts of life in Franco's Spain please let me know.  I can't seem to find any.  I can't read any more about the war itself for a long time though.  It seems film makers are now looking at Franco's reign and the war.  Maybe the books will follow.

4 out of 5 pawprints.

Next - Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tome Time - March Violets by Philip Kerr

Started November 20th, finished December 1st.

I came across this series of novels via an ad for the latest.  I was surprised i had never heard of the Bernie Gunther novels.  They are crime fiction, about a Private Eye, Bernie Gunther, set in Berlin under Nazi rule.  Sounds right up my street.  Well, you know how these things go, I'll probably love or loathe them....

It took a while to find a realistically priced copy.  I ended up buying the 'Berlin Noir' trilogy of the first books in the series.  March Violets, The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem.  I can well understand why they named the trilogy Berlin Noir.  It is written very much like an old Hollywood noir film.

Bernie is not a man you would instantly warm to.  His thoughts about women are a tad sexist to say the least.  Up to now though he hasn't mistreated any.  He's a world weary cynic making a living locating or finding information on missing Jews in Berlin.  The events take place in 1936.  He was once a member of the official police force and still has contacts there but now he works alone.

He is hired by a rich businessman to find a diamond necklace stolen as his daughter and son in law were murdered.  As can be expected the case is anything but simple and he comes across many twists and turns.  Most of them involving danger.

As we go long we find Bernie is a man who can survive Nazi Berlin whilst not becoming as bad as the worst people in the city.  He's no Goody, but we're led to read him as a decent soul overall even if he's not the cleanest living soul.

My knowledge of the era isn't good enough to spot any factual errors and Kerr gives a good sense of the atmosphere in Berlin at the time.  My one quibble was that the story had to involve a high ranking party official everyone has heard of.  This wasn't necessary to the tale and felt a little like name dropping for teh sake of it.

I have a feeling the books will continue through Berlin's timeline.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the events of the next few years are tackled by Kerr and how Gunther reacts.  This is a dark book, the lead character leads to some smutty passages.  It's not one you'd read aloud to your Grandmother.  I enjoyed it though and will definitely be reading the next two novels at least.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The Spanish Civil War by Anthony Beevor

Tome Time - The Twin Dilemma by Eric Saward

Started November 16th, Finished November 19th.

This is a readalong with Paul's Target blogging which can be found here

I had only recently suffered the TV version of The Twin Dilemma.  THis was going to be interesting.  Would I prefer it to the dramatisation, which I didn't remember being anywhere near as awful as it was...

I found the story to be written with a slightly smug edge.  The descriptions of the father character at the beginning is what highlighted this for me.  It didn't seem to gel with what I expect from a novelisation of a children's story.

It probably didn't win any love from me as I was so let down by the DVD so soon before reading it.

The character of Azmael I expected to be fleshed out a little more.  Made a little more like he can make a difference one way or the other.  I don't think he ever gives enough oomph.  No one in this story seems to fulfil a satisfying role.  I think less characters, fleshed out more may have been a better idea.  They all fail to scare me.  

All in all, this book felt cluttered and not very satisfying.  I can't see me watching or reading this story again any time in the near or middle future.

1 out of 5 pawprints

Next - March Violets

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tome Time - The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Started October 29th, finished November 15th.

I was very much looking forward to this book.  The first of this author's I read, The Shadow of the Wind, immediately added itself to my list of favourite books.  The fact that was was another large volume pleased me.

The book is set in the same universe as TSotW, Barcelona, under Franco's rule.  It also contains some of the same characters in smaller roles.  It visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books too.  A wonderful invention of the author's that I'm sure we'll see again.

I was sad to find that this book didn't speak to my soul the way the first did.  I can't say there was anything wrong with it.  It was dark, spooky, filled with well written characters.  I think it was just a little too fantastical for me.  Maybe the story of a text isn't as gripping as the story of a love affair?  It was quite easy to work out what was happening.  I don't think the author wanted to hide this from the reader.  While I grasped 'the mystery' I guess I couldn't really grasp or care 'why?'

I would love to know how I would have reacted to this book without prior knowledge of the author.  Did I feel a little let down because TSotW was so good?  Or was it because this one isn't to my tastes as much?  I'll never know.

It's still an interesting tale.  I wouldn't want to put anyone off reading it as I think it's a taste thing rather than a quality issue I have with it.  It's always nice to read things set in cities such as Barcelona.  There is a real sense of the city here.  He uses it well.  I can't see me reading this again in a hurry but I'm not quite ready to consign it to the charity shop yet.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Doctor Who and the Twin Dilemma by Eric Saward

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tome Time - The Coach House Cats by Marilyn Edwards

Started October 7th, finished November 7th.

This was a titbit book, like all its predecessors.  I haven't much to say on it really.  I thoroughly enjoyed the author's tales of life with her cats and life in her local community.  It is a continuation of the previous books.

I thoroughly enjoy these books.  I think they would be any cat lover's cup of tea.  If you are to read them I suggest you start with her first The Cats of Moon Cottage .

The author comes across as a lovely lady.  She also writes children's fiction, about cats again.  Her website can be found here -

I was sad to learn at the end of the book that this is the last.

4 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Tome Time - Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke

Started October 18th, finished October 28th.

As a teen this was my favourite sci-fi book.  It gripped me early on and kept me all the way through.  I was as desperate as the characters to know what was happening inside 'Rama'.

For some reason I haven't read it in a very long time, probably around fifteen years.  I've never forgotten it though and always remembered it with fondness if it was ever mentioned.  Then my wonderful dad appears with the entire Rama series for me.  He'd found them at a second hand book sale.  No excuses not to retread old paths then....

I was initially worried that I may be disappointed by it. My memory has a habit of pushing things further towards the end of the spectrum than they deserve.  I remember loving or loathing a lot but not so much things in the middle.

I did enjoy this book a lot this time.  The only drawback being that it felt a little dated.  A single comment about women in their space clothing was enough to make me cringe.  However it was not enough to spoil a great reading experience.  I forgive it its faults as they're surrounded by a wonderful story.  A story that unfolds at just the right pace to keep you desperate to know what's happening.  

One surprise was the length of the book.  I remembered it as being a much bigger book.  I'm assuming I must have mixed it up with others later in the series.  

The book ends with some finality and most questions unanswered.  I know there are sequels so this is no bad thing.  I do love an author that is brave enough to leave questions unanswered.  It gives you much less to quibble about and plenty to mull over.

I'm looking forward to getting to the rest of the series.  I remember much less of those than I do of this one.. I do know they're not all up to the quality of the original and I hope they won't make me sad for the legacy.

The first time you read this book will always be the best as you can let the story unfold as it should.  I will be reading it again and much sooner than 15 years on hopefully!  The story is easily strong enough for re-reads even without the 'surprise' aspect.

I can't think of a sci-fi book I enjoyed more so it still has it's favourite crown

4.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The Coach House Cats by Marilyn Edwards